"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Familiar Game

There are times when prescience is rather rewarding...

"Bartlett may or may not be a better option than Castro right now, today. But give him half a season, uninterrupted, in the majors as a starting shortstop and odds are ten to one he'll be the better option then. This team is going to need a good shortstop down the stretch if it wants to contend. The Twins can develop that shortstop now or wake up in August wondering why they don't have one."

...and there are times when it is not.
"...the Twins do have that unnatural love of veteran players with minor league contracts. We may yet have to suffer through some Ponson in the first half."

It seems Gardy's set up the schedule for the rest of spring training to allow five particular guys to pitch every five days. Sounds like a rotation, doesn't it?
"...the current pitching schedule appears to hint at a rotation that would look like this: Santana, Silva, Ortiz, Ponson and Bonser.

Gardenhire has been hesitant this spring to label any of his pitchers as locks, besides Santana. But despite his unwillingness to officially anoint any other starters, Gardenhire has pretty much grouped Silva and Ortiz into that staff, and Bonser's recent strong outings have made him look like a lock, as well.

The one real unknown comes in the final spot, where Ponson is now slotted. The Twins have given the veteran every opportunity to show he deserved the spot this spring. And after Ponson's recent solid outing against his former team, the Orioles, it now looks like he could have the edge for the final opening.

The decision to have Perkins stretch out in a start indicates that the Twins could be placing him next in line, should anything happen. Matt Garza only threw two innings in his last outing on Friday, and it appears he would need to stretch out more if he's going to be ready for a starting spot."

I mean honestly, people, are we going to do this every spring? Let me refresh your memories.

How to Play the Jason Bartlett Shuffle

1. Identify an excellent prospect at a position of weakness for the team. This prospect will hereinafter be referred to as the Bartlett.

2. Identify a marginal and/or washed up and/or irretrievably flawed veteran at the same position. This veteran will hereinafter be referred to as the Castro.

3. Bring the Bartlett and the Castro to spring training. (Bonus points for more than one Bartlett/Castro pair in the same spring.)

4. Watch the Bartlett wow the crowds and delight the kiddies with sparkling play. (Bonus points if the Bartlett hits over .300 / pitches under 2.50.)

5. Watch the Castro and try not to cringe. (Bonus points if the Castro hits .100 or more below/pitches 2.00 or more above the Bartlett.)

6. Bust the Bartlett back to the minor leagues and anoint the Castro as your starting [insert position here].

7. Paste a smile on your face and ignore the indignant howling of the fans as the Castro proceeds to stink up the joint. (Bonus points if the stinking is infectious and sends the whole team into a death spiral.)

8. Trade or release the Castro and bring up the Bartlett, declaring that he has now "proven himself". (Bonus points if you can hang on until the All-Star Break before making this move. Double bonus points if you make it that far without being hit by fan-thrown food or drink items.)

First, stretching out Perkins but not Garza? Huh? Perkins is good--no, he's better than good--and yes, he's lefthanded and a native Minnesotan, but Garza's really good, too. And to me, Garza just looks that little bit more ready. Not that I'd be unhappy if Perkins got the nod first, far from it, but it's spring training. There's games all over the place. There's no reason not to be stretching them both out, and getting them both on a five-day schedule. If nothing else, they're competing for the role of First Call-Up, so let them compete for it. Equally. How else are you going to know?

Second, can someone please explain to me why the question marks that are Silva and Ponson are being set up to take the #2 and #4 slots, respectively, while Bonser is being slotted in at #5? According to my schedule, the fifth starter should appear...let's see...five, maybe six times in the first two months (53 games) of the season. Whereas the other four will rack up 11-12 starts each. For heaven's sake, unless and until Bonser screws up on the order of, say, a Ponson or a Silva, put that boy in the #3 spot! Shove the other two in behind him, and let them try to pitch their way out of being skipped.

And lastly, unlike a lot of folks out there, I'm still rooting for Silva. The man gave us two good seasons and one bad one, the latter following a knee injury. I think there's a fair chance he can return to his 2005 form. That said, if he doesn't return to it soon, I'd rather see him working out the kinks in the bullpen or AAA.

But Ponson? Sidney-Freakin'-Attitude-In-One-Hand-Bourbon-In-the-Other Ponson?! He who has had two seasons with an ERA under 4.50, out of nine in the majors? We're taking this over Matt Garza or Glen Perkins?

For the love of Bart Giamatti, WHY?!?!?!

Some people say, "Ponson's relatively cheap, and a few weeks in the minors won't hurt Garza or Perkins any."

I concede the truth of that statement. And I reply, "You get what you pay for, and how exactly will a few extra weeks in the majors hurt them?"

Ah, well. At least we've got Jason Bartlett this April.

Don't we?

8 rejoinders:

frightwig sounded off...

The annual spring training hype about "guys battling for jobs out there" must be one of the most enduring myths in baseball. TR and Gardy knew who they wanted on the roster even before pitchers & catchers reported to camp. Silva was a lock for the rotation the day TR decided to pick up his option, and Ponson would have to completely embarrass himself to lose an "open" spot to a kid whom the organization would prefer to "bring along slowly" in AAA. Bonser is the #5 only so Gardy can reserve the option to send him back to AAA, with minimal disruption, if he starts off slowly and/or management gets a jones for bringing up a hot hand from the farm. It's a sign they're still not sure Boof has made it to stay.

The whole bit is a bad charade.

Anonymous sounded off...

Thanks for the post.
- twin-X

Third Base Line sounded off...


Seems to me that putting Bonser in the #5 role is setting him up to fail. The broad-shouldered hard-throwin' types like him suffer most from inactivity (read: the lack of opportunity to face live hitting).

If he's missing starts all over the place, I'm going to be surprised if he *doesn't* start to struggle pretty early on!


frightwig sounded off...

Yeah, that's the other thing about making Bonser the #5. He's the one whose starts will get skipped, and you know it's only because he's the junior member of the rotation. Perish the thought of making a Respected Veteran suffer that indignity!

You may recall that Scott Baker struggled with irregular starts last season. He actually pitched pretty well when given regular turns, but had his worst outings after he'd been skipped.

twayn sounded off...

Great post - I love the Jason Bartlett Shuffle bit! I fretted all winter about the rotation, but it's worn me down. Sometime you just have to close your eyes and hope it works out. Sort of like TR and Gardy are doing this spring.

Anonymous sounded off...

I agree with all of you, Bonser does not belong in the 5th spot. That said assuming we can't put Garza or Perkins in, what would you like the rotation to look like? Me? I think:
1. Santana (Duh)
2. Bonser or Ortiz (both look good)
3. Silva or Ponson
4. Bonser or Ortiz
5. Silva or Ponson

I would like,
1. Santana
2. Bonser or Ortiz (both look good)
3. Bonser or Ortiz
4. Silva or Ponson
5. Silva or Ponson
But the whole sinker baller thing.
So what do you all think? TBL?

twin-X sounded off...

There I finaly took the 10 seconds.

Third Base Line sounded off...

As much as I'd like to shove Ponson and Silva into the #4 and #5 spots, respectively, I don't think you can pitch them back-to-back.

I guess I'd go:

Although if Silva doesn't start pitching better soon...